Part 1 - Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow
Terra settled against the wall, folding his arms as he stared out at the landscape. The great mountains of the Land of Departure stared back at him, their warm peaks glowing with the light as it was absorbed into the plant life and reflected back in radiant shades of green. The coolness from the stone wall seeped through his shirt and into his skin, the chill soaking through his bones until his ribcage felt numb. He felt like a cat, staring out of the dark shadows at the world, watching and waiting until his prey was in sight before he pounced. 'Only… that time isn't coming. There isn't anything for me to wait for.' With that thought in mind, he shifted, straightening up to press more of his back against the wall.
The last few months had been hectic, filled with fighting and running around, moving and fixing things, so much so that Terra's head hurt just trying to trace everything back. The worlds had been saved by Sora, and all of the people who needed to be saved were saved as well. Terra felt particularly bad about how much trouble he had caused, especially the pain and suffering Sora, Riku, and Kairi had endured to save him. The plan hadn't gone perfectly smooth; Xehanort was still out these somewhere, but no one knew where he was or how he could be threat to anyone. He was a heart without guidance, with no means of escape from his fate, and frankly, Terra preferred it that way.
His reunion with Aqua and Ven was, simply, one of the happier moments of his life. It had been a little strange, meeting together again on such a warm note, but they had taken things in stride… well, as much of a stride as Ven nearly tackling him to the floor could count as. Aqua had enveloped the two males in a hug and they had descended into tears, too happy to be described in words, too powerful to be contained. They had shared their stories with everyone, going into every detail as they went, their rapt audience throwing in questions, particularly Sora.
When the time came to part ways was when the first problem arose: the three former apprentices no longer had a home. Aqua had been the one to point that fact out, and Terra had nearly walked out of the room in shame. He knew that fact very well. Thankfully, Aqua was the one to think of a solution. With the combined effort of Aqua, Terra, Ven, Sora and Kairi, they had managed to change Castle Oblivion back into the Land of Departure through the power of the Princess of Heart and their memories of the world.
With their home world restored, Sora finally voiced his real desires: professional lessons. Though none among the trio had teaching experience, they agreed to teach their unintentional apprentices everything they knew, on the condition that they made visits home every so often. This is what had become their routine for the past three months, forming a very comfortable relationship between the six as they learned from each other.
Though this became a very comfortable norm, Terra still felt uneasy. Something in his heart was making him feel uncomfortable, like he didn't belong in the land he called his home anymore. It was an aching feeling, pulling in his chest and clawing at his insides. He felt… hollow.
By the time Aqua walked outside to join him, his biceps were almost completely numb and the clouds in the sky had started to darken. "Something bothering you?"
"Not really," he mumbled, still staring off into the mountains.
"Really?" She trotted out in front of him, standing directly in his line of sight until he looked at her. "You seem distracted."
'I'm very distracted,' he mentally replied, now staring at her. Over the few months, he'd grown much closer to Aqua. They started spending a lot more time together, a large portion of that time alone, talking, training, or doing other tasks. He couldn't place how their relationship had developed at first, but gradually he realized what it was: he was falling in love with her. After that realization, he began to watch her more, trying to pinpoint what it was he liked about her. He loved the graceful way she moved, on and off the battlefield. He loved the way her face seemed stuck in a half-smile all the time, her actual smiles lighting up her whole face even though the corners of her lips were the only part of it that moved. He loved her optimistic view on life. He loved how happy she seemed helping others. He loved standing next to her, looking at her or feeling her eyes on him, wondering what she was thinking about. Everything about her enticed him, drawing him closer to her, and she unknowingly responded, wanting to spend more time with him or asking him to help her with something he knew she could do by herself. Often, his thoughts wandered to the question of whether she loved him in return and he'd lose focus on what he was doing, much to Ven's amusement when he tripped and rolled down a flight of stairs.
Terra dragged himself out of his reflections. "I guess I am a bit distracted. I've got a lot on my mind lately."
"Anything you want to share?"
"I don't want to share it, but I have the feeling you won't leave me alone until I do."
She laughed, sending a warm sensation through his bloodstream. "You're right. I don't want to bother you with it, but it worries me when you look so… pensive."
"Why does that bother you?"
"Because I don't know what you're thinking about. Because I start wondering what you're thinking about. I never like the results."
He grunted his understanding and stared back out at the landscape. The clouds were coalescing, forming much larger, darker clouds above them. It was unnerving him, to say the least. 'They can tell. They know I want to say it. They're taunting me, pestering me until I tell her.'
"Hm?" He looked down at her, once again noting that he was a head taller.
She fidgeted, staring at the wall instead of looking at him. "Do you… ever think about everything that happened? I know you do, but I want to know… if you think things can ever go back to how they were. If you had a chance to turn back time and fix things, would you?"
"I don't know about that one. There are some things I wouldn't change-" 'Like how I feel about you…' "-but there are a number of things I would change. I haven't decided if one option outweighs the other."
"It's something to think about…"
"Any particular reason why you brought it up?"
"It's one of my guesses as to what you're always thinking about."
He didn't respond, lightly biting his lower lip. 'That's what she thinks I'm thinking about? I have to admit, she's not too far off the mark, but far enough that it may be…problematic to try and explain what I plan to do.'
"But," she picked up with a nervous laugh, "you wouldn't think about something like that. You've got more important things on your mind, probably…"
"There's something I need to tell you about."
He took a deep breath, knowing that there was no way to prepare for whatever her reaction would be. "I… need to leave."
"You want me to leave you alone for a while?"
"No. I mean that I need to leave… leave the world for a while…"
Her expression was still one of confusion. "Oh. …Any idea when you're coming back?"
"That's the thing. I may not be coming back."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm having a problem adjusting to things now," he mumbled. "I don't feel like I belong here anymore. I can't stay here when everything in me is telling me I have to leave." Saying those words got some of the tension off his chest, but Aqua's expression brought it back tenfold.
"Is it something we did?" Her face was clouded over like the sky, dark and heralding impending disaster. Even something in her eyes seemed different, a light in them dying more with every second.
'She doesn't mean 'we'. She wants to know if she did anything wrong, even though that thought is farthest from the truth.' "No, it's not anything you did. It's no one's fault but my own."
"I still don't understand. You… just decided you need to leave? When were you planning on doing this?"
Anger flared in her eyes, and her lips curled down in a half-frown. "Just like that? You were planning on walking out without telling anyone? Is that was you were thinking? Is that the kind of treatment we get? Don't you care about us in the least?"
"I do, and that's why I have to do this!" he shouted back, adrenaline flaring in his system before dying out just as suddenly, leaving his chest aching. "I can't stay around you while I'm like this. There's just too much going on inside my head right now and I don't know where it's going to lead me. I don't want whatever comes of this to hurt any of you. It's… it's something I have to do. " He pushed off the wall and put some distance between them, feeling some of the tension in his chest die out the further apart they stood. She didn't make a sound or move in response. "I might not come back at all. I don't want to risk something happening. Just… don't think this is your fault." Each word made him feel like something was dying inside him, the crushing pain fading away into nothing.
Terra felt her eyes on his back; almost feel her tears falling on his skin until he realized that it had started to rain. It was as though the world itself was responding to her pain, crying at the loss of the child it loved so much, having been his home for so many years. Part of him wanted to turn back and tell her that everything was a lie. He wanted to see her smile again, but in his heart, he knew that it wouldn't change anything. He'd still feel hollow inside.
"Nothing I can do will stop you? Nothing to make you stay?" Her voice was so full of hope, begging him, that he actually put some thought into it. What would make him stay? 'Not even I know anymore. I think… maybe Aqua would… but I don't want to do anything that might hurt her.'
He turned back to her, the rain now soaked through his clothes and weighing down his hair, stopping barely an inch from her. "There might be one thing." Meeting her eyes, seeing the redness around them and the pain in them, he hesitated before slowly and carefully leaning in to kiss her.
Her lips were soft and warm against his own, like water lapping gently against a rock. They quivered slightly, a sign of her surprise and insecurity, but they stilled and she kissed back, her breath pouring its way into his mouth. It was as warm as her lips and faintly scented, reminding him of peaceful spring days filled with beautiful flowers from his memories. She threw her arms around his neck and they kissed more passionately, each struggling to breathe as they sought contact. It felt so good, and yet, so wrong. The hollow feeling in his heart remained.
As the need for air was becoming too great, a light-headed feeling obscuring his mind towards improper judgment, Aqua pulled her face back, her pleading eyes meeting his through the strands of wet hair stuck to her face. He couldn't tell what his own expression was, but as he watched hers shift from curious hope to pained disappointment, he knew it was not what she was looking for.
"It's not enough." Her statement was whispered, barely audible in the now-pouring rain.
"It's not enough," he answered. He wanted to say something else, anything at all, but everything he thought of felt out of place. Apologizing would have been useless. Telling her that he loved her would only cause her more pain. He settled on what he thought was best. "Forget about me. It's better that way." 'That way, you can move on. You can find someone who's fit to love you and you can live happily with him. That way… I won't have to feel so guilty about leaving you behind. So that my love for you can die with the rest of my heart.'
He nearly decided to wait for her response, but followed his better judgment and pulled way, her arms dropping limply to her sides as they slid off his shoulders. Summoning his armor and Rider, he took off into the Lanes Between, not looking back. His Wayfinder now felt heavy in his pocket, a permanent reminder of what he was leaving behind.
To put things simply, Aqua loved Terra more than she could express. It had started a long time before, long before Ven had entered their midst. For her, true love was at first sight, even if she didn't understand what love was. Her first meeting with Terra had captivated her, drawing her closer to him and everything about him. That intense fascination had lessened over time as she lived with him and got to know him, but it had been replaced by a near-inseparable bond. She no longer needed to watch him from a far when they spent so much of their lives together.
The concept of love had come to her in her stay in the Realm of Darkness. Terra, to her, wasn't perfect, even in her memories, but that was part of what drew her to him. His flaws were an inseparable part of him. Each tiny thing about him was a facet of who he was. Removing one little thing would completely change who he was. He was a handsome young man with deep, thoughtful eyes and a serious face. He was physically strong, but he had a lot of emotional concerns that he didn't like to share. He had a way with words, knowing how to push the right buttons to annoy or motivate people. He was oblivious to a lot of things. She loved watching him train, see how the muscles in his arms and back worked. She loved the way he smiled at her – and only at her – as it held some emotion that he only shared with her. She loved everything about him, too much to pinpoint what it was she loved the most.
Her only problem was that she loved him too much to actually tell him. She worried about him, especially after the three of them were reunited. He seemed to be thinking about things a lot more than he did before. It worried her, mostly because she feared it would take away the Terra she loved, replacing him with a Terra she could never understand, or worse, who would never love her in return. That one thought tore her apart at night, making her wonder how she ever slept alone. She felt that if she took her eyes off him for one moment, he'd change and leave her heartbroken.
Aqua stayed frozen in place as she watched Terra leave, the light portal into the lanes closing behind him. The disappearance of the portal dropped the entire world into darkness, any light obscured by the clouds, pouring their contents out on everything below them. She stood alone, staring into the sky, raindrops mingling with her tears until the jabbing pain in her chest overwhelmed her. The pain bubbled up and exploded out of her in a tortured scream, one that seemed like it would never end. She clutched and clawed at the emptiness in her chest as the rain poured on her until the blackness claimed her and she passed out.
When she woke up, she was in her bed, the familiar ceiling above her seeming to mock her. It's warm, relaxing color contrasted the grey, empty feeling inside her. It was still raining outside. Ven was asleep in a chair beside the bed, while Kairi ambled around the room, inspecting things and cleaning up slight messes as she went. As Aqua sat up, Ven jolted awake ad Kairi spun on her heel in mid-step.
"You okay Aqua?" Ven asked, leaning forward in his chair to hold the edge of the mattress.
She shook her head. "Where's Terra?" Her voice cracked on the question, her throat sore from both the screaming and the rain.
"Not here," Kairi answered. "Sora and Riku are out looking for him, but I doubt they'll find him. It's been too long since he left and he knows how to hide from us. I'm sorry, Aqua. There's nothing we can do."
Aqua grunted her acknowledgement and slid her way out of bed, despite Ven's protests. Her knees were shaking and she could barely stand, but she persisted, making her way down the castle halls to Terra's room, where she stopped outside the door. Kairi and Ven stopped behind her, keeping their distance, watching her. The door itself looked foreboding, leading to memories of happier times, memories that she now associated with the emptiness in her heart. The mere thought of going in scared her, but she pushed that aside and went in.
The first thing that hit her was the smell, the same smell she had picked up when he had kissed her; an earthy smell that reminded her of a forest after a rainstorm, filled with damp leaves lining the forest floor. It comforted her, seeping into her skin and warming her heart a bit. The room was fairly clean, as Terra usually kept it. He was like most boys, his mess scattered across the room, but he didn't have dirty clothes or strange objects lying around. Books were piled on his desk, a few open to certain pages, layered on top of each other in a haphazard manner. His bed was only half-made, the sheets pulled up while the comforter was bunched up on the floor at the foot of the bed, obviously having been pushed there during the night and abandoned by morning.
Aqua stepped into the center of the room, taking in her surroundings with a heavy heart. 'Terra's not coming back. He'll never be in this room again. I'll never have to stand outside his door, yelling at him to get out of bed at unreasonable hours of the morning for emergencies. I'll never have to help him clean up his all-too-frequent messes… I'll never get to see him smile or hear him laugh again… or watch him and Ven in one of their heated discussions… I'll never get to stand near him and watch him.' She gently touched her fingertips to her lips. 'I'll never kiss him again…'
Without realizing it, her knees gave out under her and she dropped down, Ven and Kairi rushing to her side. She registered that they were speaking to her, but she couldn't make out the words, her mind clouded with pain and regret. She couldn't even force herself back to her feet when they tried to help her up. All she could do was sit and stare at the room, tears welling up in her eyes as her heart ached for her dearest friend and greatest love.